I just came from a 2-day silent retreat (Cliffside, Tagaytay City). This is my second time of similar experience (the first one was 9 years ago at another retreat house in the same city).
The rule was simple. Although I came with a group, we were not to talk to each other. Not during meals, not on hallways, not even our cabins. No reading, no SMS, no music. We convened three times a day and those were the only times we heard music, or Scriptures being read aloud, or exhortation from the leader.
The first thing I did was slept. The three hours felt like three days of slumber. One participant later described her experience as being gently rocked on a hammock. Mine was like sleeping in a floating boat inside a thick forest. The only sound I heard were the crickets, or birds, or the mighty winds rushing through the surrounding mountains, or other creatures I did not recognize. And then I was gone to la-la-land.
In the hours that I was awake, I may not have heard my own voice, but inside me it was really LOUD. Thoughts, feelings, songs, questions rushing here and there as if I was in the middle of a busy urban traffic. Zing! Zing! Zing! It was not until later that I started to calm down, and while walking in one of the prayer areas I “heard” these messages:
1. From the enchanting chorus of forest sounds (crickets mostly): “I know every single one of these creatures. And I care for them. I know every single experience you are going through. And I love you. Anyway. All the way.”
2. From a plant stem, which caught my curiosity because it had no leaves, unlike those around it, but it was still standing tall. Touching it I realized it was already hollow. As I traced it, turned out to be hollow all the way down until at some point it was “alive again”, and then connected to the main trunk. Could it be that I was like this plant? At some point I was already “hollow” but it the eyes of many I was still preforming, standing. Thank you Lord for reminding me before it gets too late. Slightly beneath the part that was still alive, I saw a budding shoot. Hope. That is me right now. Perhaps taking this Sabbath I am treading will take me to this new growth.
3. The birds and the bees. This is the longest time in my whole life spent on watching bees gathering nectars from a bunch of flowers. “I do this to you a lot, child. Just gazing in wonder and love and delight.”
God is always here. It is I who was absent.
The spiritual director says, in a retreat like this it normally takes you three days to settle. And then you can hear, with your senses: sight, sounds, feelings. I did not have that much time, but I got a foretaste. I am looking forward to my next time off.
Meanwhile, I made sure to “capture” some of that peaceful spot, and keep it in my heart. I think I will need to come back to it more often than I think.